Homeless children have a hard enough time getting a proper education, let alone attending a summer educational enrichment camp.
But thanks to a $58,000 Verizon Foundation grant, up to 120 Long Beach children from homeless families enjoyed a two-week summer science education camp called See Us Succeed (Science Education Experience to help Underserved Students Succeed), hosted by the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) Science Education Department.
“This is the fifth summer that we offered it and the fourth time that Verizon has paid for it,” said Laura Henriques, CSULB Science Education Department chair. “It’s one of the more exciting things that I do because it’s something that these kids would never have the opportunity to take part in,” she added, noting that Verizon requires grantee organizations to take at least a one-year break in funding before reapplying, so the Earl and Loraine Miller Foundation and other donors supported last year’s camp.
Children in six through the eighth grade tookclasses at Long Beach’s Mary McLeod Bethune Transitional Center at the Villages at Cabrillo, a community facility serving homeless populations, as well as at the adjacent Cabrillo High School in the morning, then went to the nearby Fairfield/Westside Boys and Girls Club for the afternoon. Teams led by a credentialed science teacher assisted by two CSULB science education credential candidate students taught the classes that covered a variety of science subjects appropriate for different age levels.
“Working with Long Beach Boys and Girls Club is a nice bonus,” Henriques said. “We partner with their staff and the afternoon programming included more science, math and engineering related activities. Our campers went on a field trip to the California Science Center during their afternoon programming with Boys and Girls Club.”
The daily schedule is important, Henriques said, because families have to be out of shelters all day. “It gives time for parents to seek employment or more permanent housing or do things without having to worry about their kids being in safe programming.”
The program originally focused on the Villages at Cabrillo but later provided busing for children from different areas of Long Beach, she continued. “This year focused on the west side, south side and downtown areas. Kids get recommended by their counselors and if we take one child in the family, we want to take the siblings so that the parents have time to do what they need to do.”
Moreover, parents receive information about community social services, and organizers work to provide the children with free dental screenings by Smile Bright Foundation, staffed by dental professionals.
In addition, Henriques invited CSULB’s Mobile Science Museum—a motorhome full of hands-on exhibits staffed by CSULB employees and students—as well as California Highway Patrol and Long Beach Police Department officers to demonstrate crime scene investigations. “It’s so nice for the kids to have a positive interaction with law enforcement because, sadly, so many of these families have had negative experiences.
“The other thing that Verizon was excited about having us add this year is more technology, so we used iPads and some science apps,” funded through the grant that children shared in class, Henriques said. “Mike Murray, who is the Southern California Verizon governmental affairs director, has been a huge champion of this program and of the Bethune Center in particular. We feel really lucky to have him as a partner.”
“Cal State Long Beach has put together a program like no other for some of the most deserving students,” Murray said. “It’s an honor for Verizon to be part of this science camp. CSULB has taken upon itself to grow the camp as the need has grown. They’ve set a standard for seeing to it that every student should have access to the range of opportunities that education provides.”
This year’s science camp topics included “May the Force be With You!” exploring pushes and pulls; “It’s Not Magic, It’s Science!” “Awesome Astronomers!” exploring astronomy and rockets; “Engineering the Body,” designing, building and testing; “CSI: Long Beach Forensic Science Investigations;” and “Cool Chemistry.”